How All People Will Be Held Accountable for Every Idle Word

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Jesus said that every one of us will be held accountable for every idle word we speak, so what does He mean by that?

Words Matter


Jesus said that every one of us will be held accountable for every idle word we speak, so what does He mean by that? I have often wished that I could take back the words I’ve said, but I can’t do that. None of us can. We can ask for forgiveness for what we’ve said, but it is true that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov 18:21). Many children were brow-beaten with words by their parents and it hardened their hearts. Many in the prisons could tell you similar stories, so our words matter greatly. The old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is not true. Wounds from sticks and stones can heal…but words can scar people for life. Words matter…always!

Justified or Condemned

Jesus said that what comes out of our mouth really matters. Our true fruit is revealed by our words. In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, ofor the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, son the day of judgment people will give account forevery careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” God is keeping a record of our words and they can come back to bite us someday.

Gracious Words

The Apostle Paul addressed what comes out of our mouth, telling the church and believers today to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). The tongue can tear down or it can build up, so “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6). Salt enhances the flavor of things and is a preservative, and it’s even used in many medicines. Solomon wrote that “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov 126:24), but hard words can create hard hearts.

The Wisdom of Fewer Words

Far too often I’ve been rash in speaking. I engaged my mouth before my brain, so I know from experience that “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 2:18). To avoid speaking rash words, we must speak fewer words. In fact, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Prov 21:23). Fewer words are always wiser because there are fewer chances of inserting our foot into our mouths, so “when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov 10:19).

A Soft Answer

Arguments can quickly escalate into shouting matches. Each person begins to shout a little louder than the other person, but that never solves anything. That approach is like trying to put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it. Again, from experience, I know that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:2). Contrary to the way the world operates, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov 15:4).

Guarding the Mouth

The tongue is one of the smallest members of the body, but it can do the most damage. A lot of people who claim to be Christian but do not bridle their tongue have a religion God calls useless or worthless. James wrote that “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). There is the power of life and death in the tongue, therefore, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Prov 13:3). Better to be silent than to speak and remove all doubt as to your intelligence.

Think Before You Speak

“a whisperer separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28)

This is a big one for me. If only I had thought about what I was going to say before I said it, maybe I wouldn’t have said it in the first place. Maybe if I had first repeated in my head what I was about to speak, I wouldn’t have spoken at all. Therefore, l pray to God: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). I care that my words are acceptable to others, but first I pray they are acceptable before God, because I will be held accountable, as will we all. It is important to remember that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matt 15:18).


Let us all remember that “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:37). Since we are ambassadors of God (2 Cor 5:20), we put all of “these away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col 3:8). The tongue is very small. In fact, “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5)! Let us think before we speak because “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov 25:11). Today, if you are not saved, Jesus could come at any moment and it would be horrendous news for you. That’s why today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2; Heb 3:7-8). One thing is certain. You will be judged, either after death (Heb 9:27), or at His appearance (Dan 12:1-3; Rev 1:7, 20:12-15, 21:8). So put your trust in Christ and receive forgiveness for your sins, as God grants you repentance that leads to eternal life.

Here is some related reading for you: How Can You Tame the Tongue?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: